Lately, somebody has been posting comments about Broward County Judge John "Jay" Hurley on this blog and others, whether the items have anything to do with the judge or not. They claim what a great guy he is. They claim he volunteers at a soup kitchen. They boast about his tenacity from the bench, and they suggest that his opponent is "an advocate for death row murderers."
So who's behind them?
Some of the messages originated from the office where Hurley's campaign treasurer works, suggesting that the Hurley campaign may be behind the viral marketing. If so, that could violate Florida Bar rules that control what judges can do while campaigning.
The treasurer, Fort Lauderdale lawyer Ed McGee, denies that he or anybody in
his office is behind the postings. He couldn't explain why his IP, or internet protocol address, would be on the posts.
The IP addresses of all commenters are recorded in blogging software. New Times does not routinely monitor the addresses or release the information publicly but used the information for research purposes here because of the mass spam emails supporting the judge.
McGee suggested that perhaps other lawyers who share his server could have been behind it. One of those lawyers is Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler. Asked if Seiler or the other lawyers would do such a thing, McGee said, "None of them have a reason to write something about Judge Hurley."
UPDATED: Seiler says he didn't post the comments and doesn't "campaign against judges." Several of the comments were posted when the mayor was at events, he says. "One of them went up Wednesday night, and Wednesday night I had lacrosse, soccer, and then a home inspection. It wasn't me." Seiler suggested that perhaps someone was using his law office's IP address in the parking lot, but when pressed about how someone could hack into his system and why someone would actually do that, Seiler said: "I don't know the technical aspects."
Attorney Matthew E. Morrall, whose name is on the corporate papers for the IP address, said he had nothing to do with the postings and doubted that anyone he works with would have posted the messages. "I'm a transactional lawyer, and I don't even go to court," Morrall said. "I wouldn't know Judge Hurley if he walked in here right now."
If McGee is behind the messages, it would likely be a violation of the Florida Bar's Code of Judicial Conduct. Canon 7 of the code forbids judges and judicial candidates from pledging or promising "conduct in office other than the faithful and impartial performance of the duties of the office." The rules also require the judges to hold employees and representatives to the code.
Several of the comments would seem to have violated Canon 7, including this comment left on this post about Haitian students enrolling in Broward schools, which makes no reference to Hurley. Here's an excerpt:
I just wanted to take a moment to share a recent experience I had meeting County Court Judge John Hurley at an event for Hatian relief. I found him to be quite a genuine, good guy and very supportive of Haiti. Judge Hurley is a gentleman and quite handsome. He talked to me and my friends for a long time and he really listened to what we had to say. It was amazing to hear all the long hours he puts in at the Courthouse...
Claiming he works long hours, is handsome, is a "good guy," volunteers at a soup kitchen, and other comments, could violate Canon 7, because such claims go well beyond his abilities as a judge.
This isn't the first time Hurley has been involved with blog commenters. As Bob Norman reported here, Hurley met with the Broward Sheriff's Office to ask if BSO could get a comment removed from the JAABlog that revealed the location of Hurley's wedding. BSO declined to get involved.
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Hurley, a former Republican activist appointed by Florida Gov. Charlie Crist in 2008, also took heat last year from a lawyer who claimed the judge injected his "personal, political, and religious views" on abortion into a case. Hurley was criticized again earlier this year after the Broward Bulldog blog broke the news that Hurley rushed through a hearing for a 78-year-old woman who ended up spending 15 days in jail on a traffic ticket screwup.
Hurley didn't respond to two messages left with his office. McGee said that he speaks for the judge and that the judge would not make himself available.
As for the comments themselves, McGee said: "I dare you to print this. I wouldn't put any credence in these comments, pro or con, because it's anonymous. Anybody can say anything anonymously, and it means nothing."
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Judge John "Jay" Hurley as Jonathan "Jay" Hurley.